[Screen It]


(1999) (Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild None Extreme None Minor
Minor None None None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
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Moderate Mild Mild Mild None

Comedy: An unscrupulous woman's attempt at blackmail sets into motion a series of unexpected romantic complications and twists.
In 1895 London, Sir Robert Chiltern (JEREMY NORTHAM) and his lovely wife, Lady Gertrud (CATE BLANCHETT), are throwing a social reception. Among those attending is Lord Arthur Goring (RUPERT EVERETT), the most sought-after bachelor in town, whose good looks are exceeded only by his quick wit and often sardonic sayings, and his father, Lord Caversham (JOHN WOOD), who wants nothing more than for his son to get married.

That would make Robert's single sister, Mabel Chiltern (MINNIE DRIVER), quite happy, for she yearns for him, but Arthur seems content to live alone in his expansive abode with just Duncan Phipps (PETER VAUGHAN), his loyal assistant, to serve him.

Things heat up at the reception when Laura Cheveley (JULIANNE MOORE), a former classmate of Gertrud's shows up, visiting from Vienna. A sly and spiteful woman, Cheveley quickly proceeds to blackmail Robert into supporting an Argentine canal, a proposal he's ready to denounce in Parliament, but one that will bring her more wealth.

If he doesn't, however, Cheveley plans to make public a letter containing a past indiscretion that not only made her former husband, Baron Arnheim (JEROEN KRABBE) fabulously wealthy, but also details the origins of Robert's money.

Knowing that such a revelation would not only ruin his career but also his marriage, Robert confides in Arthur who says that he should immediately tell his wife. Since the validity of Cheveley's threat is unknown, Robert is understandably reluctant. Nonetheless, Arthur decides to take action, and in doing so, sets off a course of comical complications where everyone's motives become suspicious to the others.

Unless they're fans of someone in the cast or of playwright Oscar Wilde, it's not very likely.
For brief sensuality/nudity.
  • JEREMY NORTHAM plays a well-to-do politician who attained his wealth in a less than reputable -- and downright criminal -- way.
  • CATE BLANCHETT plays his dignified and lovely wife who isn't too happy to learn of the above.
  • RUPERT EVERETT plays a somewhat pompous but extremely witty bachelor.
  • MINNIE DRIVER plays Robert's younger and still single sister who's attracted to Arthur.
  • JULIANNE MOORE plays an unscrupulous woman who attempts to blackmail Robert and then ruin his marriage for both money and spite.


    OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
    In today's world, scandals, verbal mishaps and secrets dredged from one's past can damage a reputation faster than the faux pas can be aired on TV, written about in the papers, or gossiped at the water cooler. Thus, the popularity of spin doctors whose job it is to perform damage control and spin the press and the public's attention away to something else.

    In times gone by and before the quick to react mass press, such "spinage" was a more of a subtle art. That's the fun of the latest adaption of Oscar Wilde's 1895 play "An Ideal Husband." A story of several characters' reaction to a politically-based blackmail scheme, Wilde's delightfully witty play may be less well-known than his more famous "The Importance of Being Earnest," but this version is nonetheless a delight to watch and listen to.

    Wilde, famous for spinning conventional thought onto its head with his witty sayings -- he was the Yogi Bera of his time -- cleverly used the late 19th century piece to attack the stuffy and well- refined conventions of its era -- of course, in a sophisticated fashion -- but it still plays well today.

    As written and directed by Oliver Parker (1995's "Othello"), this adaption may offend purists with its jettisoning of some minor characters and including a fun, inside joke where the characters attend a theatrical performance of "The Importance of Being Earnest" that includes an appearance by Wilde to take an audience bow.

    Today's audiences probably won't even be aware of such modifications, but will certainly enjoy the witty repartee that made Wilde and his plays so famous. Some examples include "I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about," ""When one pays a visit it is for the purpose of wasting other people's time, not one's own" and "To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance."

    Most of those fun lines and quips come from the character of Lord Goring -- played to perfection by Rupert Everett -- who, to anyone remotely familiar with the playwright, is simply Wilde in disguise. The fun of the character and Rupert's performance is that he's so full of himself, yet is consciously aware of that and the fact that others know the same, that it's a blast to watch Goring and the other characters interact.

    In fact, as the film starts out resembling a "Dangerous Liaisons" type story, the characters -- wanting and needing to react to the blackmail scheme but knowing that they need to preserve their dignity -- cautiously begin a social dance around each other, with the often sharp and biting dialogue being their preferred weapon of choice. Being a time and society of constraint, Goring can't just grab an incriminating letter from Cheveley, but instead must use verbal bait in an effort to distract and/or deceive her.

    The results are entertaining in a subtle, black comedy fashion, but interestingly, the story shifts gears about midway through and begins a transformation over to more of a romantic comedy. While that might initially seem odd, the change actually makes sense. More important, however, it works and turns the film into even more of an enjoyable -- and not quite so dark -- piece of entertainment.

    Beyond the excellent and fun to hear dialogue, the well-written characters and the performers who bring them to life are what make the film shine. Rupert Everett ("William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream," "My Best Friend's Wedding) is perfectly cast as Lord Goring as if the role were written specifically for him. With the best lines and most fun character, Everett has a field day with his role and delivers an excellent and crowd-pleasing performance.

    Julianne Moore ("Cookie's Fortune," "Boogie Nights"), on the other hand, plays the story's villain, but is quite good in the role. While this American actress initially seems out of place and perhaps even miscast for her character, she quickly dispels any such thoughts as she gives Miss Cheveley the proper nuances to not only make her seem authentic, but also get the audience to despise her.

    Jeremy Northam ("The Winslow Boy," "Emma"), who gave a standout performance in David Mamet's recent "The Winslow Boy" as the confidant lawyer, successfully goes somewhat in the opposite direction playing a more subdued and unsure of himself character. Meanwhile, Cate Blanchett ("Elizabeth," "Pushing Tin") delivers another winning performance as Chiltern's proper and restrained wife.

    Supporting performances are decent, from John Wood as Goring's appropriately pompous father to Peter Vaughan's take as the bachelor's tired but proper butler. While Minnie Driver ("The Governess," "Good Will Hunting") is decent as Arthur's secret suitor, her character often feels like she's in limbo. Never quite a full character and appearing too often for true supporting status, her appearances occasionally seem a bit awkward, although that's not to discredit Driver's performance.

    With the appropriately lush production and costume designs, decent cinematography and an entertaining and lively score, the film is as much fun to look at as the story is to follow. While some mainstream moviegoers may avoid this picture thinking it's yet another stuffy period piece, it's anything but. Although at one point in the movie Lord Goring says, "I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it" we think you should follow ours and see this delightful little film. We give "An Ideal Husband" a 7.5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated, period romantic comedy. The rating stems from brief sensuality and nudity that appears as follows. From a distance we see a nude woman get up from Arthur's bed and briefly see her bare breasts and butt. In another scene, Arthur runs his hand down Cheveley's cleavage (but ultimately for nonsexual reasons) and another scene briefly shows a husband and wife being romantic on a bed.

    Beyond that, some smoking and social drinking, brief profanity and some bad attitudes that include attempted blackmail, attempting to ruin a marriage and a past indiscretion, the rest of the film's categories have little or nothing in the way of major objectionable content. While it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film, you may want to take a closer look at the listed content should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for you or anyone else in your home.

  • Arthur seems to have a hangover while still in bed (and for which his servant gives him something to drink as a remedy).
  • People drink champagne at a social gathering, including Robert and Gertrud.
  • People have champagne at a post-play party.
  • Cheveley and Arthur have drinks.
  • Some men playing cards/poker have drinks.
  • Arthur pours himself a drink.
  • Arthur pours champagne for himself and Cheveley.
  • Gertrud announces that she needs a drink and Arthur's father says he does as well (but we don't see them drinking).
  • None.
  • Cheveley attempts to blackmail Robert to support a canal project that will make her rich, or else she'll disclose the origins of his wealth. She also wraps up an unwilling Arthur into her plot and then further tries to destroy Robert and Gertrud's relationship.
  • We learn that Robert sold confidential government information to a baron that allowed both to become rich.
  • Robert hasn't and doesn't tell his wife the truth about his past and/or what Cheveley wants with him.
  • Arthur's father says that women don't have any common sense -- that only men have it.
  • None.
  • Fencing Swords: Carried by Robert and a newspaper man and seen being used by others while fencing.
  • Phrases: What sounded like "Bollocks."
  • It's possible some kids may get the idea to blackmail others (if conditions are "ripe" for that to occur).
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • 5 damns, what sounded like 1 use of "bollocks," and 2 uses of "My God" and 1 use each of "God" and "For God's sakes" as exclamations.
  • We briefly see (from a distance) a bare-breasted woman in Arthur's bed. As she stands up and leaves the room, we also briefly see part of her bare butt.
  • Several ladies at a social gathering show cleavage, and as we see a partial shot of someone being dressed for the event, we also see their cleavage (being powdered).
  • Gertrud shows a bit of cleavage.
  • We see Gertrud (in a nightgown) sitting on top of Robert (who's shirtless) as they kiss and he then rolls over on top of her (but nothing more than brief kissing occurs).
  • Cheveley shows cleavage in various scenes.
  • As Arthur and Cheveley sensuously kiss, he runs his hand down her cleavage (although his motive is really to get her blackmail letter from her).
  • Some people at a social reception smoke.
  • Some men playing cards/poker smoke cigars.
  • Robert smokes around two times, as does Arthur.
  • Robert and Getrud's marriage becomes strained when his past indiscretion becomes known (but no children are involved).
  • Blackmail.
  • The fact that Robert's past indiscretion -- selling government secrets -- came back to haunt him (although he gets off relatively scot-free in the end).
  • None.

  • Reviewed May 14, 1999 / Posted June 25, 1999

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